One big pig

A 600kg pig is stretched out on an iron frame yesterday as part of the annual Hakka ritual for martyred militiamen, which is called the Worship of the Just (義民祭). Yesterday's activity in Taipei was sponsored by the city's Bureau of Civil Affairs. For the festival, Hakkas compete to see who can raise the fattest pig, with hairs along the spinal cord of the pig being painted black. The center of the pig's spine is painted black because "center" in Chinese is a homonym: the word center (中) sounds like the word for ancestor (宗). Painting the pig's spine symbolizes carrying on the spirit of your ancestors. Each pig's mouth is filled with a pineapple in order to prevent them from complaining to Yama (閻王), the King of Hell. Live fish, like the carp above, are also hung below the pig's mouth as part of traditional practice. The Hakka are often seen as a highly influential group during election time. During last year's presidential election all of the candidates actively courted Taiwan's Hakka voters. There are nearly 400,000 Hakka in Taipei.Aug 07, 2000

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PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

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